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Xelhuan's Profile

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Corn Tortillas: White Vs. Yellow

I lived in Veracruz for 5 years and my wife is Mexican from a small pueblo in a very rural area. And there and in Xalapa, people almost exclusively eat tortillas made from white corn. Although some ladies peddle tortillas from blue corn, but never yellow corn. I would surmise that previous to the Spanish, various types of corn where used. However, I doubt yellow corn was eaten before corn breeding programs occurred but, I'm not certain. In Baja California I had wheat tortillas (which was the result of Portifiio Diaz's trying to convert the Mexican's to a wheat diet,) and of course in the US there are flour tortillas. However, Northern Mexico is less traditional and eat Burritos and the like which are not traditionally Mexican. Anyway, if you want to eat traditional Mexican food go with the white or blue corn for your tortillas, along with black beans (Veracruz style), and chile peppers. David

Feb 29, 2008
Xelhuan in General Topics

Conaculta cookbooks

Dear Leucadian,

I contacted Conaculta, and they sent me an email saying that they indeed can sell books via the internet from Mexico to the USA. I will try to do it and see how it goes. I am not sure about the prices. You have to pay through a bank card ( I guess Visa will do, but I'll check it out) and they will send you whatever copy you want. The copies are in Spanish mind you. They have a list of the copies at http://culturapopularesindigenas.cona....

The contact person is Omar Soto. You can contact him at:
ventasinternet@librosyarte.com.mx

I don't know if he speaks English. Probably someone there in the office certainly does. David

Mar 20, 2007
Xelhuan in Home Cooking

Pozole

When my wife's family in Veracruz kill a pig, just about every part gets used. They make pork grinds, carnitas, and such. And the head gets saved for Pozole. In Veracruz people generally use Chile pequin to spice up the Pozole. Generally, its on the side and the Pozole itself is not very spicy. David

Mar 18, 2007
Xelhuan in Features

Vacation Tamales

Well, I'm glad to see the interest in Mexican food. Hopefully, when my wife (she's from Veracruz) and I open up our tamale kitchen on O'ahu some people might actually be interesting in eating them rather than the typical ones sold around O'ahu made from flour rather than real Nixtamal.

One comment, agua fresca or agua de fruta is made with water and any available fruit be it Lemon (lime in the US) or guava. And well Horchata is made with water and rice along with cinnamin and what ever might seem to go with it.

I here everyone talk about comparing Oaxacan or Pueblan cuisine, but I would surmise that identifying just by state is misleading. Take Veracruz, in the north you have the Huasteca where the Huasteca people live. Amongst them you will find nahua and otomi speaking peoples. Here the music is often played with a violin. In the middle of the state there is Totonacapan, home to the Totonacan indians who domesticated Vainilla and are famous for the flying dancers.

South of them you have the sierra of Zongolica home to a nahua speaking people mixed in with some Popoloca and Mazatecans. It was once considered amoung the poorest places in Mexico. On the highest reaches of this sierra it snows. On the bottom lands it is tropical and hot and rainy most of the year.

Then to the south of Veracruz you have Mixe (said to be decendents of the Olmecans, who made the large stone heads [but, they don't claim that]) and other nahua speaking people.

Just north of Zongolica you have a town called Yanga which was the first liberated slave town in the Americas. Yanga along with much of the coast of Veracruz has African influences. They say that the natives there speak Spanish similar to the cubans. And then you have Spanish influences all over the place. Especially, in Veracruz where Cortes first landed.

Then you have an altitudinal gradient that goes from Mt. Orizaba the largest Volcano if not mountain in North America and with a peak that is covered with snow for most of the year--along with other mountainous places where you will find snow in the winter-- to the ocean, which affects the types of plants you have available to use for food. Also, naturally along the coast they eat lots of seafood, while in the mountains they don't.

In other words, the Veracruz Huastecan food probably has much more in common with the San Luis Potosi or Hildalgo Huastecan food than it does with food fo the port of Veracruz or that of Zongolica. In Zongolica, Hoja santa (The leave of a certain type of pepper plant[as in black, not chile pepper] used as a spice) is popular as it is in Northern Oaxaca, but I didn't see hoja santa in a single recipe of the Recetario nahua del norte de Veracruz published by Conaculta (which surprised me.) Using Spanish divisions only serves to confuse people. Outside of Veracruz people call Veracruzanos Jarochos (which actually one time referred to the color of the skin of the people there. They said there skin looked like the color of the Jarro, black. But, in Veracruz a Jarocho is someone from the port only. If you are from the Huasteco you are not Jarocho.

As for the last comment: For those that don't know, those from Mexico City are often called Chilangos, which depending on who you ask refers to mixing of chiles from other places--as most people from Mexico City come from other places. And someone originally from Oaxaca might open up there own his own restaurant there and may very well serve traditional Oaxacan food, what ever that is. And well obviously as much as there are differences there are many similarities as well. Most, but not all people in Mexico eat tortillas, beans, and chiles. What changes is the types of chiles, beans, and tortilla and how they cook them. David

Mar 18, 2007
Xelhuan in Features

Does Mexican Coke Have More Caffeine?

I lived in Xalapa Veracruz for about 5 years where I taught English. I definitely noticed differences between the soda in Mexico and that in Hawaii anyway. Normally in the US I drank Pepsi rather than Coke. But, when I went to Mexico I noticed that the Pepsi tasted really different and the coke wasn't so bad, more like the Pepsi than the Coke in the USA.

I had a student in my English class who worked for Cocacola over there and he told me that Cocacola was a subdivision of the Cocacola internaticional corporation. (Ex-president Vicente Fox used to be the head of Cocacola Mexico.) But, Pepsi is made in Mexico by authorized franchises who don't possess the same technology as the regular Pepsi corporation. They don't have the ability to economically remove the molasses from the sugarcane. If you look at Mexican sugar in the stores, it is normally not as white as American sugar because its not as highly processed. But, Cocacola Mexico has the ability to refine it.

It would make since that it uses cane sugar as sugar cane is a popular crop at least in Veracruz. My wife comes from a sugar growing area and her father and one brother farms sugarcane. Anyway, the corn normally grown in Mexico is white corn different from the yellow corn normally grown in the USA. And it might not make the same quality of corn syrup. Anyway, now I drink neither coke nor Pepsi because I try not to drink caffeine. Take care.

Mar 17, 2007
Xelhuan in General Topics

Conaculta cookbooks

I guess my file was too big. Well, here I have 2, I hope.

Mar 17, 2007
Xelhuan in Home Cooking

Conaculta cookbooks

A few more pictures of Xelhuan. David

Mar 17, 2007
Xelhuan in Home Cooking

Conaculta cookbooks

Dear Leucadian,
I sent an email to Conaculta to see about ordering those books from Mexico on line. There were a three of the series posted for sale on line in Mexico. But, I asked them if they would send to the USA and if they have others from the series. When I get a responce I will let you know. All is well in Hawaii despite it being our rainy season. David

Mar 17, 2007
Xelhuan in Home Cooking

WHO HAS THE BEST NEW MEXICAN FOOD!!!!

I wish I had seen your list here. I went from El Paso to Albuquerque and was looking to eat good New Mexican food. I went to old town. But the place my wife and I ate at wasn't very good. I had just spent 5 years in Veracruz. I was in Albuquerque when I was a kid and remember the Sopapias (not sure of the spelling.) and green chiles. In Veracruz and all the places I have visited in Mexico except for Ciudad Juarez, I never came across a Burrito or a Chimichanga. However, I did eat nachos with American cheese once in a Theater owned by an American Syndicate in Mexico City. My wife prepares Totopos which are fried or toasted Tortilla chips.

Mar 14, 2007
Xelhuan in Southwest

Conaculta cookbooks

I asked my wife why you toast the chiles only on the outside and she told me is that if you toast the inside the chiles turn amargo, that is bitter. Don't know if it's true, but that's what she said. Tesmole is a fairly basic recipe, I'll get one from her. As for tamales well the most common ones in her ranchos are called there tamales rancheros. Outside of Veracruz they call them tamales costenos with a squiggly mark over the n. You probably have seen them in cook books. I can get an exact recipe, but for now a basic overview. They prepare the masa like in regular tamales, but then they cook it before steaming it. (Later I'll get more details, as I'm usually off playing soccer when they cook tamales.) Anyhow, they put the cooked masa in a banana leaf. Then they add chicken, pork or beans in a Salsa of chiles, I believe she uses chile ancho, chile mulato, chile seco (serrano), and chile guajillo (I believe). Then, they add of leaf of Tlanepa (otherwise known as acuyo or hoja santa.) finish wrapping the tamale in the banana, then steam them for a hour or so. There you have it. But, like I say I'll get more details. However, they also have corn tamales and sweet tamales. As for the Tlayuda. I think the ones you get in Oaxaca are at least a foot in diameter. I suppose you can find flour tortillas that big, but these are of course from corn. David

Mar 13, 2007
Xelhuan in Home Cooking

Conaculta cookbooks

FYI, The area between Tehuacan Puebla, the northern tip of Oaxaca, the Sierra of Zongolica, and the sierra Negra of Puebla are home to Nonoualca a nahua speaking people. I think now a nonooualcan man would call himself a Mexicanero (not sure about spelling) (to distinguish between them and Mexicans, and that they speak the language of the Mexica.) Apparently they were a tribe associated with the Toltecs. They were like some kind of mercenaries for the Toltecs. They were responsible for destroying the city of Tula/Tullan (now in Hildalgo) in the 1168, after having problems with the Toltecs problable caused by a famine. Then lead by their leader Xelhua(n) (who apparently died along the way), they travelled towards Tehuacan were they settled. A subtribe called the Chalchiuhcalca-Tzoncoliuhque (people of the green jade house-those with (curly) folded hair continued east towards the mountains and founded what is now call the sierra of Zongolica, parcially displacing the original inhabitants the Mazatecas and Popolocas. In Tezonapa my wife's county, these other groups still exist in small numbers. Many live by the dammed river there and sell fish. And some were apparently overtaken by the Nahuas and now speak Nahua. There are some 100,000 people that speak this Nahuatl language. The county of Tehuipango was once considered the poorest in Mexico. But, now the government has been pumping money into the region, building roads and what not. I don't think this place has received alot of recognition outside the area. Anyway, I learned this reading Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran's Zongolica, Encuentro de Dioses y Santos Patronos published by the University of Veracruz.

Mar 12, 2007
Xelhuan in Home Cooking

Conaculta cookbooks

Dear DiningDiva,

Don't remind me. Starting a restaurant business in Hawaii is nightmarish, even if you have a lot of money. And the majority of them fail. I have the whole booklet from the Hawaii Department of Health downloaded. To legally sale food you have to cook it in a certified kitchen which can not be your home kitchen, unless you have two kitchen's in your home. Which we don't. It would be much easier to open a Hawaiian style restaurant in Veracruz. Which I plan to have some where in the future. And we do plan on selling legally. Although, I know and have known people who sell food without permits.

Mar 11, 2007
Xelhuan in Home Cooking

Conaculta cookbooks

Richard. Sounds like you know Veracruz well.

Well I have definitely eaten Tepejilotes. My wifes biological family gather them in season when they go up to the sierra to tend the cafe. It's definitely a delicacy. They have them in Xalapa in season. Heck, they might have them at the University of Hawaii's Lyon Arboretum. I might have to check them out. They do have Chico Zapote here. Are neighbor's have a small tree and they sale them in the market. I guess the Filipinos who brought them in, but it must be native to Mexico.

In Xalapa we ate Chayotes all the time especially in Tesmole. Most of them that they sell in the market are spineless variety. When we went to visit my wife's biological family in Tlacotepec, Puebla, from her rancho in Tezonapa. The family gave us some spiny Chayotes that were pure white. We planted them and they grew well. Afterwards, I found a similar plant in the neighborhood, so they must not be rare. If you take the highway between Cordoba and Xalapa for the first twenty miles or so you will pass thousands of acres or hectares of Chayotes. That is until you near Huastuco where they grow more cafe. And really good cafe it is. There the elevation I guess is about 3000 meters but, my wife tells me they grown it on her rancho 200 meters (above sealevel) but only in the shade. They grow cafe for nescafe (not exactly the best stuff) But, our neighbors from Xalapa liked it. And the Senor of the house at one time worked for the coffee growers in Coatepec so he must know what good coffee tastes like. I don't drink coffee, but I spent several months near Huatusco and I really liked their coffee. I drank it ice cold with sugar. So, anyway I'm sure Chayote grows here. You can buy in most markets here. I haven't though seen it growing.

I'm not sure about Oca's but, then again I have a lot to learn.

As for eating in the market in Veracruz. I have done it for fish a few times. But, generally, I'm wary of eating in these types of places. Especially if the place doesn't have a lot of business or lacks a refrig. Generally, I didn't eat on the street or even in many restaurants. And how you suffer. Because the tacos and food on the streets are usually excellent. But, I have gotten so sick from eating in the street that I try to avoid it.

And that includes the markets. My wife got sick eating in the market in Xalapa. Of course her resistence is not much greater than mine. At home in her rancho the food is fresh and her mom was a stickler for hygiene. However, she studied in Tehuacan Puebla, and didn't have much time or money so I think she often ate on the street. Anyway, Tehuacan has a wonderful market. You've probably been there. Much of the produce sold in the state of Veracruz actually comes from Puebla. You can usually here the indigenous speaking in their languages there. As for the Ocas, I;m not sure. I think I know what you're talking about. Well, I'm sure Cacao actually comes from South America too. And just through trade and what not it made its way up north. Vainilla definitely was domesticated in Veracruz, I surmise. Talking about Ocas, you know that the Hawaiians and Polynesians have Sweet Potatoes. And these come from South Amercia too.

And now they have been paving the roads in Zongolica as well as most of the Sierra Negra in Puebla on the other side of the Sierra of Zongolica so it doesn't take so long to visit. Although, I'm not so sure its a good thing. But it is if you are a tourist. The next time I return I plan on either buying a truck or renting one to drive through the Sierra. Aloha David

Mar 11, 2007
Xelhuan in Home Cooking

Conaculta cookbooks

Aloha Leucadian,
I'm sure my wife would share a recipe. Actually my wife got a recipe from the mother of a player who played on my football team. It may not be so traditional, but I loved it. It is like shredded chicken with chile poblano and corn. I'll see if she has it here in Hawaii. But, if you want a recipe for tamales, tesmole, or anything else I can ask her.
One thing about salsa. Most Salsas for dipping chips in the Mexican restaurants here are made from fresh green chile with tomatoes and onions. But, much of the salsa in Xalapa and the sierra is cooked first. My favorite salsa is made from chile serrano seco, tomatoes and garlic. You probable know this but just in case you don't.

Grab a bunch of chile serrano seco and place in a frying pan (or comal) with a little bit of oil to toast or roast them. (The oil is so they don't stick, they aren't fried normally.) Don't let them turn black. I recommend a low heat. Remove the chiles. Then, roast the tomatoes until they become like tomato paste, but orangish in color. Then, traditionally you would put the chiles in a (mortar con pestle) molcajete and grind them with a fresh clove of garlic (You can toast it also if you like.) Then place the tomato "paste" in with the chiles and mash it some more to mix it together with the chiles and the garlic. You can also use a mixer and mix it all at the same time, but people say that it doesn't taste quite the same.

The amount of chile versus tomatoes that you use is up to you. Often we don't use tomatoes only chile. But, its hotter. And the chile serrano seco (like I mentioned seems to hotter than most (but, not all) from the sierra, but that just might depend on the season here. My wife says you can also use chile ancho or a combination of chiles. Chile ancho (dried poblanos) isn't as hot. But, you need to remove the seeds and only toast them on the outside, not the side with the veins. I hope I have explained myself well (I'm not the cook, except for some Hawaiian style food.) and didn't bore you with something you already knew.

Have you gone to the Oaxacan restaurant? If so, did it serve Tlayudas, large tortillas unique to Oaxaca. Hasta luego David

Mar 11, 2007
Xelhuan in Home Cooking

Conaculta cookbooks

To BTW or Leucadian,
Hi, yes I bought two books from the Cocina Indigena y Popular, the #31 and Recetario nahua del norte de Veracruz (the #1) 2nd edition Marina Ramirez Mar. which was mentioned by the DiningDiva and is basically Nahua food from the Huasteca Veracruzana. I read a book about a certain group of Nahua in the Huasteco who are very traditional and still practice their native religion and do paper cutting ceremonies. So, I thought I might buy this book.

We haven't actually cooked from either book, but I definitely plan to, or at least compare their recipes to the ones my wife makes. Actually we have plans to open up a business selling tamales in Hawaii. My wife who studied teaching really wanted to study gastronomy. But, the only scholarship she could get was for teaching so that's what she studied. However, she did get to live in an isolated village in Zongolica for a year teaching nursery school and got to eat Iguana and lots of unusal dishes. I bought a book entitled "Que Vivan los tamales!" by Jeffrey Pilcher about Food and the Making of Mexican Identity. And he mentioned that Diana Kennedy, was the foremost authority on Mexico's cusines. So, I think I need to buy that book. We bought the two books from the Cocina Indigena y Popular Series at the Veracruz Museam of Anthropology in Xalapa, Veracruz. I hope to also get more of these. Especially the ones on Tamales and the Afromestizo cooking. (My wife's rancho or town is alittle over an hour from Yanga which was the first liberated slave pueblo in the Americas. And a number of the inhabitants including a sister-in-law of my wife have family coming from there.)

In Hawaii or at least Honolulu, the Mexican food is pretty gringoized. No restaurant that we have been to makes tamales (let alone tortillas) from scratch, that is cooking the corn in Calcium hydroxide or Cal. And most places sell Burritos and Chimichangas which uses flour tortillas. My wife didn't know what a Burrito was until she met me. So, we plan on selling various types of tamales at the flea market or swap meet as they call it in Hawaii and the various festivals during the year. And if we get a good response we will expand and open a restaurant selling food from the sierra of Veracruz like Tezmole (which you can find 8 recipes in the Zongolica recipe book, but you can't at least with that name in the other book of Huasteca cooking. We I came back from Mexico, I thought that Tezmole was normal cooking cause we ate it all the time. But, now I think its something unique to the Sierra of Veracruz, Oaxaca and Puebla. Because, I've talked to alot of other Mexicans and most are familiar with it. It's a soup with masa and chile and lots of vegetables.) maybe some traditional Jarocha seafood. In her rancho the normal tamales they make are called ranchero's and use banana leaves and hoja santa which they call Tlanepa or Acuyo. And the primary chile is the chile serrano seco. This chile is native to this area. And they don't sell either here in Hawaii. The hoja santa is an invasive species in Hawaii so you can't grow it. We have found suppliers in Texas and Florida. The guy from Florida actually sent us a sample for free. And while we have ordered Chile serrano seco over hte internet, the chiles were a lot hotter than the serrano grow there. Its not the heat that counts its the flavor. So, we now have to have someone send some on a regular basis.

My wife was hanai as we say in Hawaii or informally adopted by her godparents. And unfortunately her hanai mom died just after we were married. She was actually from Ojitlan Oaxaca (which is known for the embroidery). And when my wife was around 9 or 10, she helped her mom run a seafood restaurant in their house for the sugarcane workers. And so my wife knows how to cook seafood a la Veracruzana, besides the normal foods like tamales, but she never learned to cook Pipian, which is one of my favorite dishes. However, she learned from ourland lord in Xalapa who is from the Huasteca.

My wife collected some recipes from her sister and friends in Xalapa before we left for Hawaii. She plans on getting some more recipes from her family. Her sister-in-law makes an excellent Pozole and her oldest sister who lives in North Carolina knows her mom's pipian recipe.

What I really want to do is get some recipes from Rosy's biological mom and grandma (who barely speaks Spanish) when I go back to Veracruz. Hopefully next year. And also find out about some of the plants that were listed in the recipe book on Zongolica that Rosy didn't know. Her biological parents are actually from the mountains of Puebla. But, culturally they are the same people as those of Zongolica and speak the same dialect of Nahuatl. Rosy's mom didn't have a birth certificate, and had trouble getting one in her town (Not sure why), but she was able to get one in Zongolica. (That's Mexico for you.) Sometimes, Mexico feels alot like the good ole USA until they take you to a witchdoctor or something like that. Anyway, I hope you find what your looking for. It sounds like your attending some kind of event (cooking?) in Escondido (Pues Puerto Escondido I take it. We went there for our honey moon some 7 years ago. Great place especially for surfing. Take care, David
P.S. The picture is of our son Xelhuan Kawika. In the picture he is almost 4 months. Now he is 6 and 1/2 and is 20 lbs. and well over 2 feet tall. And the mother is not even 5 foot tall. But, of course I'm 6' 3''.

Mar 08, 2007
Xelhuan in Home Cooking

Conaculta cookbooks

Dear Leucadian,

I have two of the books of the series for nahua cooking from Veracruz. My wife grew up next door to the the county of Zongolica, in Tezonapa. Both were once the same county. Many of these recipes are similar to what she grew up with. These recipes are reflections of the area. This area has been traditionally one of the poorest in all of Mexico lacking roads, electricity and more importantly good soil. But, in the past 15 years the government has been helping this area out a lot. Anyway, this book has recipes for cooking squirrels, Atole made with ashes for sick people, and used some plants that even my wife hasn't heard of. We bought another before we left for Hawaii that is from the Nahuas of the Huasteca. And those recipes are even given in Nahuatl. And a Nahuatl quite different from that spoken in Zongolica. So, I can't attest to all the books but these two are authentic. And I am looking forward to ordering some more from the series. David

Mar 06, 2007
Xelhuan in Home Cooking

Source for Avocado Leaves in Oakland/Berkeley?

I'm looking for avocado leaves to import to Hawaii. But, be sure that you use Persea drimyfolia and not P. americana. I guess they are just diferent subspecies and not different species, but the ones they use in Mexico are drimyfolia and not americana. The Hass avocados and similar ones that we have in Hawaii are americana and you don't use the leaves to cook with.

Feb 10, 2007
Xelhuan in San Francisco Bay Area